In the NZZ, Werner Enz reports that the insurance company AXA will stop offering “Vollversicherungen.” One motivation relates to the fact that the second pillar in the Swiss pension system is increasingly abused, with redistribution undermining supposedly “individual” accounts.
On VoxEU, Paolo Pasimeni and Stéphanie Riso argue that at the EU level, cross-border redistribution is limited:
The EU budget accounts for roughly 1% of the EU’s GDP. Around 80% of it, on average, returns back to each country in the form of various allocated expenditures, and only a limited part is actually redistributed among countries. On average over the past 15 years, the redistribution operated by the budget at the level of the EU was equal to 0.2% of the Union’s GDP. As a matter of comparison, the average yearly cross-border flows operated through the federal budget in the US between 1980-2005 was equal to 1.5% of GDP (d’Apice 2015).
In the JEEA 14(4) (August 2016) Klaus Adam and Junyi Zhu argue that
unexpected price-level movements generate sizable wealth redistribution in the Euro Area (EA) … The EA as a whole is a net loser of unexpected price-level decreases, with Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain losing most in per capita terms, and Belgium and Malta being net winners. Governments are net losers of deflation, while the household (HH) sector is a net winner … HHs in Belgium, Ireland, Malta, and Germany experience the biggest per capita gains, while HHs in Finland and Spain turn out to be net losers. … relatively young middle class HHs are net losers of deflation, while older and richer HHs are winners. … wealth inequality in the EA increases with unexpected deflation, although in some countries (Austria, Germany, and Malta) inequality decreases due to the presence of relatively few young borrowing HHs. … HHs in high-inflation EA countries hold… systematically lower nominal exposures.
The table reports the estimated effects of a one-time unexpected change in the general price level by 10% (expressed either in thousand EUR per capita, or as a share of GDP); a positive sign indicates a gain from deflation.
(1000 EUR p.c.)
(1000 EUR p.c.)
(1000 EUR p.c.)
(share of GDP)
(share of GDP)
(share of GDP)
On VoxEU, Charles Calomiris and Matthew Jaremski discuss the origins of bank liability insurance. They argue that it is redistribution, not the aim to boost efficiency, which explains a lot of the action.
… there are two theoretical approaches to explaining the creation and expansion of deposit insurance. The first is an economic approach grounded in potential efficiency gains from limiting bank runs (i.e. the public interest motivation). The second is a political approach grounded in the rising power of special interest groups that favoured insurance as a means to access subsidies (i.e. the private interest motivation).
… Because insurance reduces the incentive for market discipline, it may increase fundamental insolvency risk … whether, on balance, bank liability insurance reduces or increases risk … is an empirical question. Economic theories of liability insurance only make sense on economic grounds if the gains from liquidity risk reduction tend to exceed the moral hazard or adverse selection costs from reduced market discipline.
… Political models seek to explain why liability insurance may be chosen to favour certain groups in society even when it imposes large costs on society in the form of higher systemic risk for banks. In this context, liability insurance needs to be understood as part of an equilibrium political bargain achieved by a winning political coalition. …
… we review empirical evidence about, first, which factors are shown to be instrumental in creating bank liability insurance; and second, evidence about the consequences of passing insurance … We find that political theories are much more consistent with both sets of evidence.
… the historical push for liability insurance in the US came from a coalition of small rural bankers and landowning farmers …
Worldwide, bank liability insurance remained a unique (and controversial) policy choice of the US until the late 1950s, but it spread rapidly throughout the world in recent decades …
Like the adoption of liability insurance in the US, the recent global wave of legislation creating and expanding insurance can also be traced to political influences. …
The expansion of liability insurance has been generally associated with reductions in banking system stability …
The political theories of liability insurance point to a major political advantage. It provides an effective means for a government to supply hard-to-trace subsidies to particular classes of bank borrowers … agricultural borrowers or urban mortgage borrowers …
Liability insurance can create a subsidy for banks (which they can pass through, in part, to borrowers) only if prudential regulation and supervision permit banks to take risks at the expense of the insurer. Thus, lax regulation and supervision are an important part of the political bargain that allows liability insurance to deliver subsidies to banks and targeted borrowers. …
In a New Republic blog, Alan Auerbach and Larry Kotlikoff discuss lifetime spending inequality. Due to taxes and income variability over the life cycle, this is much smaller than wealth or income inequality.
Auerbach and Kotlikoff write:
The top 1 percent of 40-49 year-olds face a net tax, on average, of 45 percent. … For the bottom 20 percent, the average net tax rate is negative 34.2 percent. …
Our standard means of judging whether a household is rich or poor is based on current income. But this classification can produce huge mistakes. … For example, only 68.2 percent of 40-49 year-olds who are actually in the third resource quintile using our data would be so classified based on current income.
- Who knows whether the Franc is overvalued.
- The SNB lost credibility in the short run (and this renders reinstating an exchange rate floor difficult), but not in the long run.
- Some of the current problems are problems of distribution. The SNB may not be the appropriate institution to address them.
- Switzerland wants an independent monetary policy. Here are some disadvantages.
Ben Bernanke argues in his blog that it is not clear whether monetary policy fosters inequality. And if it did, other policy instruments should be used to address the resulting problems.